October 10, 2014 / 11:24 AM / in 3 years

China offers incentives for criminals overseas to give themselves up

BEIJING (Reuters) - Corrupt Chinese officials who have fled abroad are being offered reduced sentences and other incentives to give themselves up and return home, state media said on Friday, as the government continues its sweeping campaign against graft.

Beijing has long grappled with the issue of so-called “naked officials” -- government workers whose husbands, wives or children are all overseas -- who use foreign family connections to illegally shift assets out of China or to avoid investigation.

Some estimates put the number of Chinese officials and family members moving assets offshore at more than 1 million in the past five years.

Earlier this year, the government announced it would root out such officials, whom Beijing often cannot get back from Western countries due to a lack of extradition treaties and concerns about torture and capital punishment.

Announcing the latest effort to go after such people, the official Xinhua news agency said that if they handed themselves in they would be treated more leniently.

Until Dec. 1, such people can report themselves to Chinese embassies, “confess their crimes accurately and voluntarily return” and then be eligible for reduced sentences, or get off entirely if their crime is not judged to be serious, Xinhua said. The report said so far 128 people had returned from more than 40 countries.

A senior official said on Friday China was increasingly looking to cooperate with other countries to make sure corrupt officials fleeing abroad are returned, even if it is against their will.

“Our campaign to seize fleeing officials and retrieve what they have stolen will become an important aspect of our political and diplomatic ties with other nations... focused on persuading foreign governments not to harbour these criminals,” Huang Shuxian, vice secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) told Xinhua.

Huang said China’s goal was to “make sure that there is no safe haven abroad for the corrupt and that they are brought back home to justice.”

President Xi Jinping has made fighting pervasive graft a central theme and has warned, like others before him, that corruption threatens the ruling Communist Party’s survival.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Stian Reklev; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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